The American Clock Playwright Arthur Miller showcases smaller stories to illustrate major social issues in this play with music, based in part on Studs Terkel’s book about the Great Depression, Hard Times. The story follows the Baum family, which slides from Manhattan affluence to threadbare bankruptcy, but this 22-actor drama features many other characters and scenes along the way. Director Frank Condon keeps the story flowing, the musical numbers entertaining, the acting fresh and the plot meaningful. Costume designer Nancy Pipkin created more than 130 outfits for the show. It’s an impressive, ambitious, handsome and entertaining launch of River Stage’s 10th season.
River Stage; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $13-$15. Cosumnes River College, 8401 Center Parkway, (916) 691-7364. Through November 14. P.R.
Bunnicula The Children’s Theatre of California clearly is counting on a Halloween tie-in for Bunnicula, but, frankly, we wish they’d picked a better script. The popular children’s book is a tongue-in-cheek spoof of the Gothic novel of horror, but Jon Klein’s adaptation turns out like a retread of The Simpsons. The setting, a typical home, doesn’t leave much room for adventure. The title character never says a word—which you can handle in a written narrative but proves problematic onstage. And there’s not much of a resolution at the end. These shortcomings are partially balanced out by the energetic performances of Rick Kleber, Anna Ambrose, John Lamb and Mindy Stover, plus Amy Resnick, manipulating a Bunnicula puppet (created by local puppet master Richard Bay) like a Japanese bunraku performer.
B Street Theatre; 7 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday; $15-$20. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Extended through November 7. J.H.
By the Bog of Cats The scariest show in town has nothing to do with Halloween. This play by prizewinning Dublin writer Marina Carr resets Medea in dirt-poor rural Ireland, working in moments of Celtic verbal levity and wit amid the larger tragic framework of the story. Actress Janis Stevens is a powerhouse in the central role, glaring with vengeful anger through furrowed eyebrows and long black hair. She makes this dark journey compelling and intense, even though the outcome is foretold from the get-go. Many members of the strong supporting cast have worked in film or played leading roles in local community productions. It’s a talented group performing in a 50-seat venue, largely as a labor of love.
California Stage; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday; $15-$19. 1723 25th Street, (916) 451-5822. Through November 14. J.H.
Deathtrap Deathtrap made its debut in 1978, but it has all the earmarks of earlier mystery parlor plays. It has five characters: a playwright, his wife, his writing student, his lawyer and a neighborhood psychic. The plot is simple. Successful playwright Sydney Bruhl hasn’t had a hit in years and is facing paralyzing writer’s block. He blurts out, “I’d kill to have a successful play!” Sydney’s wife, Myra, laughs uncomfortably, and so do we. Sydney’s writing student, Clifford, mails him one of only two copies of a wonderful play he’s written. A juicy murder takes place, but watch out for twists, turns and red herrings.
Delta King Theatre; 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $8-$22, with dinner and brunch packages available. 1000 Front Street in Old Sacramento, (916) 995-5464. Through November 7. P.R.
Dirty Blonde Dirty Blonde is a homage to Mae West, the buxom actress who always played the sexpot. We see West in vaudeville, on Broadway, making movies, and in old age (browsing through a scrapbook with an adoring young fan, z-z-z). It’s mostly her public persona; we never learn what made her tick. The show wants to be a musical—except that there’s only a little music and dancing. Stranger still, it also wants to be a romantic comedy about two awkward, lonely lovers finding each other. It’s the sort of sweet storyline West typically skewered with a ribald one-liner. Actress Jamie Jones is a hoot as West, Peter Story is funny as the fan, and versatile Matt K. Miller stylishly dishes up 15 small roles. But ultimately, the fun wears thin.
Sacramento Theatre Company; 12:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $20-$36. 1419 H Street, (888) 4-STC-TIX. Through November 7. J.H.
The Music Man It’s a big community effort at Garbeau’s Dinner Theatre, with more than two dozen people in the cast; a nine-piece band; and costumes, costumes, costumes. The stage can barely contain all the activity! If you enjoy songs like “76 Trombones” and “Ya Got Trouble,” you’ll almost certainly find yourself tapping your toe and enjoying this energetic dinner-theater revival.
Garbeau’s Dinner Theatre; 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday with dinner at 6 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. Sunday with brunch at 1 p.m.; $24-$39 for show and meal or $20 for show only. 12401 Folsom Boulevard in Rancho Cordova, (916) 985-6361. Through November 7. J.H.
The Vagina Monologues This play with the gutsy title takes a taboo subject matter—a basic body part of every woman—and makes it acceptable to talk about. For this production by Sacactors.com, three talented actresses trade off monologues in front of deep-red velvet panels. The performances examine not only the word, but also the body part, and all the shame, power, fear and beauty that vagina owners carry with them. The play is funny, sad, angry, empowering and, most of all, great fodder for after-show conversations.
Geery Theatre; 8 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $12.50-$14.50. 2130 L Street, (916) 451-4152. Through December 19. P.R.